Saturday, September 30, 2006

Bicycle thieves and flat-roofed pubs

GIVEN THE past week’s news coverage, you might imagine that attacks on children by dangerous dogs are like buses and only come along in threes.

First we had the tragic death of five-month-old Cadey-Lee Deacon, killed by two flat-roofed pub rottweilers. (I call them “flat-roofed pub rottweilers” because that is a different breed to the common or garden “pub” rottweiler, as well as being a world away from the “normal” rottweiler you might see at a dog show or in the park.)

Then it emerged that four-year-old George Brown had had to undergo four hours of reconstructive surgery and have 200 stitches in his face after being attacked by a bulldog near his home in Huntingdon. I know not if this was a “council” bulldog or the more placid “cul de sac” breed. Suffice to say, it had serious previous and its owner now faces a spell in prison.

We then learn that two-year-old Harvey Lawrence is still in hospital in West Sussex after being attacked by another rottweiler (provenance unknown) earlier this week. Coincidence or conspiracy? Neither, really. The fact of the matter is that these things happen all the time. It’s only when a particularly newsworthy attack takes place that the Dangerous Dogs Debate re-enters the national agenda with every incident being accorded media attention.

In fact around 3,000 people a year are attacked by dogs, with many of the victims children. That’s over eight a day, yet no newspaper to my knowledge yet runs a regular column entitled “Today’s Dog Attacks”. So why is it happening and why are we putting up with it?

We must turn first to the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991, which prohibited the breeding, sale or exchange of four identified breeds: pit bull terriers, Japanese Tosas, the Dogo Argentino and the Fila Brasileiro – not the sort of animals you see advertised on the noticeboards at Tesco. The Act also sought to ban any other dog that appears to be “bred for fighting”, but was not specific about types of dog, so making enforcement prior to an attack almost impossible.

So what of the snarling beasts on chain-link leashes so beloved of feral hooded youths? (Dicks-on-a-string, one vet called them this week.) Ah, they’re Staffordshire bull terriers and, as such, are exempt. I do remember at the time of the debate suggesting that if the government couldn’t identify potentially dangerous dogs by breed, then it could perhaps do it by name. Thus, anything called Tyson, Rambo or Rooney would immediately be shipped off for the lethal injection. Fido and Rover would escape.

But even that isn’t the answer. Dogs are wild pack animals, not programmable toys. Any dog can turn nasty – just ask Princess Anne or Roy Hattersley, both of whom have been hauled before the beak to answer for their canine’s criminality. And you yourself may not realise that you’re harbouring a Fred Westie or an Alsatian Capone in the bosom of your own family until it’s too late.

Perhaps bringing back the dog licence is the solution. I remember when they were seven shillings and sixpence, or 37.5p in new money. (My dad would only let us have a black and white dog because he thought the colour licence was more expensive.) But this time let’s make it really worthwhile, say £500 a year. And enforce it.

I can think of little that would give me more pleasure than watching a team of armed police work their way around a sink estate, confiscating snarling dogs and towing away uninsured cars at the same time. And at least if you did get bitten, you’d know that the beast’s owner had enough money to make it worth your while suing him.

NEW LAWS banning age discrimination in the workplace come into effect next week. The government wants people to be able to work longer, particularly as we’re living longer. It will therefore be unlawful to sack someone or deny them training just because they’re old, and employers won’t be allowed to specify an age range when advertising for new employees.

Have they really thought this through? Do we really want to end up with the situation where we’ve got 60-year-old lap dancers and 17-year-old brain surgeons? I don’t think so.

WATCHING GMTV over port and kedgeree the other morning, I happened upon a report detailing the amount of debt the average Brit has run up. It appears to be a modest £3,000 per head, a fraction of what I owe to the banks and the credit card bandits.

What really caught my eye though was the appearance of a representative from a respectable pawn-broking firm, describing how a representative sample of respectable people use his firm’s services for easy short term loans. Hmm.

I happened to be discussing this in the Dog and Blunkett that night amongst a group of friends, one of whom is a cyclist. (Yes, I know.) He related how he’d been advised to pop along to his local, modern multiple pawn shop after his bicycle saddle had been stolen. (I am advised that these things aren’t exactly cheap.)

There, in the corner of the shop, was a pile of such saddles, only not the kind you buy in bike shops: these were all attached to seat posts with reflectors on them. They could only have been stolen from parked, unattended bikes. There was no other explanation.

The bike seats were priced at £4 apiece. This means that the seller would have raised roughly £1.33 from passing them on to the pawnbroker. And in a delightful economic synergy, £1.33 was just enough to buy you a can of Special Brew from the off licence next door.

Don’t you just love the free market?

WE MUST return, regrettably, to the case of Cadey-Lee Deacon. Now I know that this isn’t going to earn me many friends, but if we accept the fact that we can’t change the outcome of this terrible accident, can’t we also accept the fact that in the course of this poor child’s short life, an abrupt end isn’t exactly the worst thing that could have happened?

Bear with me. Let’s examine the evidence. Cadey-Lee had been branded from birth with a stupid name by parents so moronic that they left her where passing, flat-roofed, froth-mouthed hounds could get at her on a sink estate in Leicester.

So what will those caring parents miss? Well, they’ll never get to see their little girl terrorise the elderly neighbours with her equally feral pre-pubescent friends. They’ll never get to go round and threaten those neighbours themselves when they finally summon up the courage to complain to the council.

They’ll never get to look on admiringly as she pulls on the Top Shop thong reading “Cum And Get Me”. They’ll never get to see her first tattoo, pointing down at her arse like the advertisement for a free sample that it is. They won’t be there to dab TCP on the septic belly button piercing.

They’ll never get to physically assault the teacher who fails to show Cadey-Lee sufficient “respect” by asking her to stop calling him an “arsehole” on the very rare occasions she turns up for classes.

They’ll never get to share that tender moment when she tells them she’s up the duff by any one of a dozen 14-year-old packrats. They’ll never get to help her fill in her first, illiterately-scrawled benefit claim. They won’t be there to help her move into the council flat. And they won’t be there to celebrate the succession of multi-coloured, junkie-fathered, grandchildren that follow.

And you think that I’m being harsh? Sorry, but sometimes the truth hurts.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who doesn't think that Extras is excrutiatingly funny, of anyone not lusting after 93-year-old Twiggy in that Marks and Spencer TV ad, or of anyone who's just taken on a Brazilian cleaning lady.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Battered sausages and salad-dodgers

IF ONE image sums up the lumpen proletariat that is this nation’s underclass, it’s that picture of the fat woman from Rotherham, bingo wings flapping, pushing battered sausages and chips through the school railings to her salad-dodging son.

It really is enough to make you weep. Is she completely deluded? Does she not understand that the reason battered sausage and chips are not available inside the railings is because scrotes like her are feeding up a generation of obese monsters? Or is it just that she’s afraid that if her darling boy gets exposed to exotic foodstuffs like pasta and parsnips, she won’t be able to live up to his culinary expectations at home? Let’s face it, microwave pizza and oven chips is hardly a challenging diet, even if they do splash out on Findus Crispy Pancakes and Angel Delight at the weekend.

I could even handle it if it was just her own offspring that she was fattening up for Christmas, but her and two mates were taking up to 60 orders a day from other kids as well. (And isn’t this what ASBOs were invented for?) No doubt it’s a nice little earner once you’ve pocketed your commission from Mr Chippy. I may even try it myself. Must dash – off down to the local primary school with hundredweight of deep-fried Mars Bars and 10 gallons of Sunny Delight.

IT WAS World Alzheimer’s Day yesterday. I just thought you ought to know that. And doesn’t that Prince William look just like his lovely mother?

LIFE INCREASINGLY comes to resemble a Not The Nine O’Clock News sketch; the one with the stupid policeman who keeps arresting the same man for “having big lips and curly hair”. Only this time the boot is on the other foot.

A seemingly respectable, white, middle-aged mechanic from Stirling in Scotchland was arrested and thrown in the cells for 48 hours after an off-duty policeman saw him “revving his car in a racist manner” and called in fellow cops. No, really.

The alleged incident occurred when Mr Ronnie Hutton’s Lotus sports car started playing up just as Mr Isam Maigel (28) and his burkha-clad wife Hana Saad (23), a Libyan couple who had only been in the country for two days, happened to walk by. Mr Hutton pulled into the kerb and revved his V8 engine five or six times, triggering the Racial Awareness Panic Button of Chief Inspector Eion Jenkins, another passer-by.

Mr Hutton was later arrested at his home and spent the weekend in the clink before being charged with “causing distress by acting in a racially aggravated manner”. Thankfully, the charge was later thrown out by Stirling Sheriff Court for lack of evidence.

Now I have no way of knowing if Mr Hutton was being a prat or not, but the Libyans don’t seem to have suffered immensely even if he was. And I do know that if Stirling Police had used their resources more wisely, they’d have been able to send even more officers to rough up Cherie Blah for her alleged assault on an innocent, strapping teenager.

IT WAS World Alzheimer’s Day yesterday. I just thought you ought to know that. And doesn’t that Prince William look just like his lovely mother? Yes, two sugars please …

THIS WHOLE issue of making people welcome blew up again this week (although that’s probably an inappropriate term) when John “Bruiser” Reid, this month’s Home Secretary, took himself off to Leyton in London to encourage parents to turn their kids in if they thought they were getting a bit radical, Islam-wise.

One bloke got a bit agitated about this and demanded to know what Mr Reid was doing “in a Muslim area”. And therein lies the rub. There can be no “Muslim areas” if we’re ever going to crack this integration thingy.

The incident sparked a phone-in debate of the usual intellectual quality on Radio 5 Live, with one caller complaining that he had an “immigrant” living in his street and that it was the only house where the lawn wasn’t kept neat and tidy. I can just imagine the neighbourhood opprobrium that must greet the poor bloke every time he ventures outdoors. Damn these English with their tyranny of gnomes and three-otter water features.

SO, JUST as we lose one TV hero in crocodile tormentor Steve Irwin, another much-loved giant of the small screen is snatched away from us.

A charismatic personality with a love of speed, a heroic willingness to take risks, a dedication to duty not often seen these days and with an overwhelming desire to explain and educate, we will surely miss him.

So RIP, Raymond Baxter, Spitfire pilot and Tomorrow’s World presenter.

OF COURSE, given the tragic events of recent days, we shouldn’t be blasé about Health and Safety issues. So it was entirely appropriate that Terrington Parish Council in North Yorkshire was ordered to conduct a detailed risk assessment in every location in the village before it can go ahead with its 10th anniversary fete next year.

It’s Political Correctness Gone Mad, you cry – but would you want to be the unfortunate policeman who has to inform a parent that their child has fallen over and grazed a knee during the egg and spoon race? And while incidences of spontaneous combustion involving school choirs are relatively rare in this country, you really can’t be too careful. You wouldn’t want to see that new church hall go up in smoke, would you?

I AM grateful to the Department of Transport for relaxing the regulations regarding hand baggage on aeroplanes. It is comforting to know that despite the chaotic queues; the over-the-top (and up-the-bottom) body searches; having to take off your belt, braces, shoes and truss; the suspicious glances at your shoes and the rampant paranoia that makes anyone who’s spent two weeks in the sun an imminent exploder, I can now once again take my tuba on holiday with me.

IT WAS World Alzheimer’s Day yesterday. I just thought you ought to know that. And doesn’t that Prince William look just like his lovely mother? And ooh, those daddy longlegs. They’re everywhere …

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who doesn't think that poor Richard Hammond's crash was caused by his booster seat slipping, of anyone who was lying in hospital hoping to get a Hammond Organ for Christmas, or of anyone who doesn't think that Margaret Beckett and the Caravan Club had something sinister to do with this terrible accident.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

We're living la Dolce Rita

DEPRESSED at the news that the manufacturer of Airfix models had gone bust (no grandson of mine will now ever enjoy the vicarious thrill of filling a plastic Messerschmitt BF 109E with petrol, setting fire to it and throwing it out of the attic window while shouting "Gott in Himmell!"), I cleared off to Italy for a week to recuperate.

Perched in a very nice villa on top of a mountain I decided that a period of abstinence was necessary to prepare me for the trials and tribulations of the last days of the Blah Empire, so I was determined to avoid any news from home. No foreign copies of the Daily Mail, no flicking through the satellite channels in search of Sky News (although searching for programmes featuring stripping housewives was allowed) and no mobile phone. And it worked - to a point.

You see, news is now such an international language that it’s hard to escape its all-embracing grip. It started with the dogs. I should explain: the soundtrack of the Ligurian mountains is a chorus of chainsaws, scooters and dogs. At any time of the night or day you can always hear one of them in action.

The dogs work as a team. One will start barking far down the valley and gradually others join in. By the time the rabid hound in the villa next door has started hurling itself against the chain-link fence, the noise has grown into a constant howl. And it was through this medium that I started to receive messages from home. Don’t ask me how it works; it just did.

“The Sikh servant on the Camp coffee label has been allowed to sit down alongside his master,” howled the dogs. “Fred Elliot drops dead on his Coronation Street wedding day. “And you forgot to record the new series of The Sopranos, you numbskull.”

Occasionally a donkey would join in, usually with news of Gordon Brown.

I tried to explain this phenomenon to the wife, but only received a strange look and a comment about how badly I’d needed the break. Listen, if it’s a good enough way of rescuing missing Dalmatian puppies, it’s good enough for me.

SO THIS villa shared a pool with the house next door and there I was the other morning, doing a few lazy laps, when this Italian bloke came out and stood watching me. He was slim, muscular and had his hair seriously Brylcreemed (or hair-gelled for you younger readers). He was the colour of Ron Atkinson’s missus and was wearing a pair of those Speedo things. And a sneer … a real snidey sneer.

I suppose you can’t really blame him. He sees this flabby, fifty-something, pasty-faced English bloke in greying boxers, trying to keep his fag dry while doing the breast stroke, and immediately sees himself as superior in every way. Except I was of sterner stock; the grandson of a Monte Cassino veteran.

So I flicked my ash in the pool, gave this fella the Hard Look and watched him just melt away. Back in the house, still searching for the stripping housewives, I came across a documentary marking the fact that it was 63 years to the day since the Italians surrendered in the Second World War…

THE Ligurian coast is where Dante wrote much of his masterpiece The Divine Comedy, the epic poem that is regarded to be the first major work of the Renaissance, in which he detailed at length the nine Circles of Hell.

Having experienced the nightmare that is the car hire desk at Pisa airport, I can quite understand this. One hour, 50 minutes to fly from England; two and a half hours to get the keys to the pre-booked, pre-paid Fiat Punto. There were hundreds of Tuscan tourists, rapidly falling out of love with the Italy that they’d been lauding at dinner parties for the past 50 weeks. The Tenth Circle, if ever there was one. And that was without the men wearing those appalling three-quarter length trousers and sandals with socks.

DID I tell you that I’d been on holiday? One thing the Italians get right is food, and I was delighted to find that a local speciality was Ravioli di lardo di Colonnata. That’s ravioli (not from a tin) stuffed with … wait for it … lard. Yes, lard. Not the vile Polish stuff that you get down your local Aldi, but real proper lard, cut from the back of an acorn-fed pig and so revered that they throw the meat away and just keep the fat.

We’ll not even mention the kilo block of top quality Parmesan smuggled back in the hand baggage (£4) or the fantastic fennel bulbs (90p) that put the domestic version to shame.

we are at the ridiculously overcrowded airport on the way home. Over a thousand white, middle-aged, middle class English couples, waiting for their cheapo flights home. And one, solitary, 20-year-old Moroccan lad, who chose to come and sit next to me. Not only that, he then began muttering to himself, quietly wailing, holding his head in his hands and obsessively tying and retying his shoelaces.

Every single liberal eye in the terminal was turned upon us, suspicion as naked as it comes. So what do you do? I engaged him in schoolboy French and asked him where he was flying to. It turned out to be Rome, and his plane had been delayed by a “technical fault”.

End of story. He wasn’t on my flight, so I didn’t give a toss if he was wearing dynamite shoes or not.

and Safety Nazis have had a stormer, with the city council in Bristol deciding to ban doormats in tower blocks because they pose a “tripping risk” in the event of a fire. Consequently, anyone not remove these lethal items from their doorsteps by Monday face immediate confiscation action from the Doormat Police.

Have you been to Bristol? Trust me. You’re more likely to be shot dead by a crack-dealing Yardie than you are to trip over an errant doormat. Good to know that someone, somewhere, has got their priorities right.

THIS MAY seem harsh, but if you’re living in Manchester’s Moss Side on a road known as Wild Western Street because of the incidence of shootings, you could do better than call your son Jesse James.

I am also bound to ask what this poor 15-year-old lad, whose brother is currently doing time for firearms offences, was doing out on his bike at 2.40am. An early paper round, perhaps?

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone not rejoicing at the news that Bovril has returned to using beef stock again, of anyone who can understand why a blind driver (and we're talking no eyes at all here) has been ordered by a court to take a driving test as part of his sentence, or of anyone who thinks that fining cyclists £2,000 for not having a bell on their bikes is unreasonable. Let's face it, if the bastards weren't riding on pavements, there'd be no need, would there?

Friday, September 01, 2006

Good morning, Mr Respectable. Now please bend over

WE FLY at dawn. Yes, Italy, seeing as you’ve asked. Villa with a pool, on the coast south of Genoa.

Being a middle-aged, middle-class white man who couldn’t possibly be a terrorist threat, I’m anticipating the full monty at airport security so I’ll be wearing new underpants and hole-free socks. I’m also told that every thing of any value will be taken from me at the checkpoint, including make-up and my cigarette lighter, but that I can replenish all supplies from approved duty free shops. Hmm … how convenient.

Now obviously I don’t want to hurtle to earth in a ball of flames, but are we not overdoing the possible weapon thing? I ask because I went to a football match on Saturday and had my newspaper confiscated on the way in. The reason? It was apparently a potential weapon.

Now I don’t know about you, but if half a dozen hard core hooligans are coming at me across the terraces, I’d want something a bit more substantial than a damp copy of the Daily Star to defend myself with. But still, I can remember the Sixties when for a while you had to remove your boots before they’d let you into a football ground. That was really fun, particularly given the primitive toilet arrangements that encouraged a rather liberal attitude to public urination.

week of Tom and Jerry frying pans and falling anvils inspired me to wonder about other cartoon clichés. I mean, when did you last see a dog running out of a butcher’s shop dragging a string of sausages? In fact, when did you last see a string of sausages, now that we’re all buying pre-packed supermarket crap?

Do desert islands really just have one palm tree and a bloke with a beard living on them? And are scantily-clad blondes washed up there on a regular basis? Do cats still get stuck up trees? (The answer is yes, and the fire brigade is banned by the Health and Safety Nazis from rescuing them. Oh, and they can’t slide down poles anymore in case they hurt themselves either.)

Have you ever seen anyone slip on a banana skin? Do women in rollers really lurk behind front doors clutching a rolling pin? Even in Hartlepool? Has anyone ever put a freshly-baked pie on a window sill to cool? And then had it stolen by a cat wearing a trilby? Or an unshaven man dressed up as John Prescott?

You know when you’re really, really hungry? Have you ever eaten a huge sandwich and then watched in the mirror as a sandwich-shaped lump slowly descended down your neck? And if you did swallow a lighted stick of dynamite, wouldn’t it go out when it arrived at your stomach?

Now I have to confess that I have actually stood on a rake, but there weren’t any swallows flying in circles around my head after I did it. Just a trip to casualty for seven stitches. And despite all the head injuries I’ve received down the years, I’ve never had a three-foot long perfectly formed bump spring from my forehead. I’ve also hit my thumb with a hammer, but of the red, throbbing, 20 x actual size bruise there was no sign. I’ve also run into a wall, without leaving a body-shaped hole.

I’ve never painted a black circle in the middle of the road, and if I did I certainly wouldn’t expect any passing cars to fall into it. And if I accidentally ran over the edge of the Grand Canyon, I would hold out no great hopes that simply keeping running in thin air would get me safely to the other side.

And tell me, why isn’t the ACME corporation as big as Walmart?

You know, there’s a film script in this somewhere. Anyone got Bob Hoskins’ phone number?

I TRUST you’ve all seen the tragic news about the clown who was crushed to death during a circus performance in County Clare, Ireland, the other night? He was killed when a cage, held aloft in the Big Top by a hot air balloon, fell on him from a great height.

Now that’s very sad. But I do wonder if it was simply karma catching up with him. Let’s face it - I bet he's spent years driving round in a patently unfit motor vehicle with the doors and wheels falling off and the engine exploding. Sooner or later, irresponsible behaviour like that is going to catch up with you.

And a final thought. How did they fit his shoes in the coffin?

NOT A week passes without another dose of confusing health advice. One day a cup of tea too many will kill you; the next you’re being encouraged to chew tea-bags to ward off cancer.

Now it’s the turn of cider. Yes, folks, a glass of cider a day apparently keeps the Grim Reaper away, although this research from Glasgow University hits an immediate stumbling block. I mean, how many 80-year-old Scottish tramps have you ever seen? They’ve usually popped their clogs (or their shoes stuffed with newspaper) long before their fifties.

And what if it turns out to be true? That will mean that all those feral children you see hanging around outside the off licence drinking White Lighting from two-litre plastic bottles will be a burden on the State for another 70 years. Pass the scrumpy, quick.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who isn't trying to find the address of Cillit Bang's Barry Scott so they can hunt him down and kill him, of anyone who doesn't wish that if Ruth Archer and Sam the cow man are going to have an affair they'd just bloody well get on with it, or of anyone who is vaguely impressed with the ungrammatical claim of Smarties' advertising that "they're ain't not no artifical colourings in Smarties". Maybe not now, but what was in those blue ones, you bastards?